Thursday, October 29, 2009

Eat that meat

Get ready, because I'm about to pull stories from like a million directions.

Heather sent Stef and me an email last night discussing some issues she's having with protein and how she noticed that lately she hasn't really been eating meat. It's funny because Stef was a vegan at some point and Heather actually prefers meat substitutes (like boca burgers, etc) over beef. I have always been the stickler that says, "Guys there is no way I could go without meat for even a day. It's too hard." SO the two of them did a no meat challenge a few months ago and I politely declined my participation because I've ALWAYS said that giving up meat is not enjoyable for me.

So when Heather posted her blog about labeling herself a "flexitarian" this morning, I was just expecting to read it and go on about my day. But as I read her blog, I realized that the topic of meat has been on my mind lately much more than I actually thought it was.

I've always loved chicken. Chicken has been a staple of my diet and even before I started watching what I ate, I mostly ate chicken. I would have the occasional beef thrown in from time to time and very rarely I would eat pork (aside from bacon). Turkey was always on sandwiches or on holidays and other than that - it's been CHICKEN. I actually have been eating much more beef and pork since I started watching what I eat. My favorite way to eat chicken is grilled and when I sold my house, I sold my grill, and the foreman is absolutely no comparison for my old propane grill. Therefore, I've been a little bored with chicken as of late and needed to switch it up!

But here's the problem with chicken, and well meat in general. It's super expensive! And therefore, for about the past 4-5 months Matt and I have been buying the huge bags of frozen breasts at Costco. You can get a 10 pound bag for like $18. It's a steal of a deal. I've found that usually if you defrost the chicken in the refrigerator for a day or two, you probably wouldn't be able to taste that it was frozen. Or at least, that's what I thought (we'll come back to this.)  So every time that I'm coming up with a meal, I usually pick a carb - pasta, bread or rice, pick a veggie and pick a meat. In the past month or so I committed myself to eating more vegetables, so lately it's been more often two veggies and a meat. Sometimes I have a carb, other times I don't. Well, frankly I get bored of this and more frankly, the meat has been my least favorite part of my meals lately because I've been eating mostly that frozen chicken. The chicken is so thin, it's hard to do much with it. Grilling has been boring. Baking I've done a few times and frankly I'm sick of the taste of sautéed chicken. I'm not a big sauce eater, so that isn't much of an option. I'd love to stuff some chicken breasts and bake them, but you can't do that very well with these frozen breasts. I've have been wishing some days that I didn't have to eat a meat at all. That's not fun, is it!

Also in the mix, I have been trying to empty my pantry and all the beans in my pantry in the past 3 weeks. I've had some DELICIOUS bean meals in the past few weeks, ones with a meat and ones without. Why did I think I didn't like beans? Beans are the perfect combination of protein AND fiber, and well they are pretty awesome nutritionally compared to chicken.

Do you see where I'm going here? No more frozen chicken, Laura.

The last indication that I need to stop eating this frozen chicken happened this past weekend. My mom bought some amazing fresh chicken breasts from Whole Foods. I forgot how great chicken can taste when it's fresh and simply seasoned and grilled. AMAZING. It made the foreman grilled breast I had yesterday with some BBQ sauce taste like fast food. My family started talking about how great the chicken was and my brother mentioned he can't eat those frozen breasts anymore because they are frankly, awful.

So imagine all of these ideas coming together in my head and being topped off with the realization Heather is going to become a "flexitarian". She really got me thinking about all these little cues that I hadn't put together yet.

Now let me be clear, I am NOT saying I'm a flexitarian. After all, I still love meat. I still hate meat substitutes (you won't be seeing ANY tofu on my plates anytime soon). I still live in TEXAS people - throwing meat out of my diet is out of the question and I won't do it. I love beef, pork, chicken and turkey (seafood? ick!) And I will definitely still be eating it. But I'm not going to eat sub quality meat any longer. I'm giving up those frozen chicken breasts cold turkey (haha). And since I'm saving for school and poor and still don't have a wonderful propane grill (I miss you grill), it looks like I'm not going to be eating as much meat as I used to. I'll start incorporating less meat into my meals at home. I'll just be checking the grocery store for meat on sale and either freezing it or using it that week. I know it sounds weird that I won't eat frozen chicken but I'll eat chicken I bought from the store that I froze myself - but trust me, the difference is unbelievable. But now it's more beans for me! I'm actually a little excited as I keep thinking about all the recipes I can make with beans! Who knew!

(as a side note, I never realized how fantastic it would be with Matt living with me - because I can make what I want to eat each night and he'll either feed himself or eat some of the stuff I batch cooked for him on the weekends. This was NEVER the case when we didn't live together. I always felt like I had to make him something and I just ate it too. Ick)

So now I need to figure out some ways to make tasty meals from dried beans. I've only made beans that were dried once or twice and I wasn't impressed. But canned beans are HELLA expensive (I buy the organic versions that have low sodium or no salt added), so this is my mission for November. I'm SUPER excited!

Thank you Stef and Heather for being my inspiration for non-meat meals!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My spark anniversary

As promised, here are a few excerpts from my spark blog about my spark anniversary. Even though this blog is relatively new, I've been on spark for one year now and on a journey to lose weight and be healthy for 14 months at this point. I can't say enough about spark people. If you want to lose weight or just be healthy you can get support, advice, articles, trackers, etc at spark people. It's completely 100% free and FULL of information and resources and has a huge community of people trying to live just like you! If you decide to join, let me know and you can look me up! I'd love to help anyone with their spark journey!

So in true Heather form, I made a few lists to recap the things I've done over this past year and a look into the future. I debated several different types of lists because I realized that some of the things I wanted to say were negative, but then I remembered that there IS negativity in my life and I've found ways to defeat it with the power of positive. So even if there are a few negative things thrown in these lists, remember that I am choosing to NOT focus on them and I am focused on the positive. I picked 12 things for each category since I've been on spark 12 months.

In the past year on spark, I have lost:

1. 25 actual pounds and 15-25 pounds of weight I WOULD have gained had I not found spark.
2. Almost 2 full pants sizes. I will be in the next size down in a matter of weeks to a month. 

3. Massive inches all over my body - but most noticeably in my waist, sides and arms. I wish I could find the original measurements from a year ago but I think I might have thrown them away.
4. Stress. I've made decisions to eliminate as much stress as I can from my life and I've worked reallllly hard on this task.
5. My house, because I sold it! That was such a huge decision for me and it has proven to be an excellent decision.
6. My tendencies to emotional eat. Or rather, I've lost the habit to emotional eat. I still feel tempted, but I'm able to fight this temptation a majority of the time and recognize that eating my emotions won't make them better. I have to cope and deal with them!

7. Two family members - my uncle and my Oma. Both losses were very hard on me, but I've been stronger and more capable of dealing with these losses this time than I have with any of my other previous losses.
8. My fear of running! Turns out, I LOVE IT!
9. My fear of failure and my obsession with perfection. Okay, so I still sometimes feel like I fail because I'm not perfect, but I'm learning that perfection is NOT attainable or even something that is measurable so I can't focus on it. This has been a huge win for me.
10. Some of my social anxiety. I still have social anxiety, but I'm doing MUCH better. I actually want to go out with friends now and I'm not embarrassed by my weight (most of the time) and worried what people are thinking of me. I'm able to focus on the people I'm with and what we are doing more than I am thinking about how I look or who is judging me. This is a more recent development, so I definitely have strides to make here!
11. The fear that I can't eat out. One year ago I didn't feel like I could successfully eat out or eat at someone's house. Now, I know that I can and I do it pretty often.
12. The feeling that I was always the fat girl. I'm NOT! I still have a long way to go, but the progress I've already made has made me realize I'm not the fat girl anymore. I'm just me!

In the past year on spark, I have gained:

1. WONDERFUL, incredible, amazing spark friends who I hold near and dear to my heart and love beyond words can imagine.
2. The title as a super hero. I can't describe to anyone how much my fellow Super Heroes - Stef and Heather mean to me. Not a day has passed since July that I haven't spoken to at least one of them at least once during the day (usually more!). These girls know me better than I know myself and I can turn to them for anything and everything and I love them so much for it.
3. A wonderful (but sometimes annoying) dog that Matt and I adopted. Lexi is a part of our family now and I wouldn't have it any other way. Sure, sometimes she annoys me - but I wouldn't trade her for anything!
4. A renewed passion for cooking - though this time it's healthy cooking. Cooking is stress relief for me and it makes me truly happy.
5. A new career! Well, it's in the works. But spark has helped me realize that the best way for me to stay healthy the rest of my life is to help others become healthy! I have already announced I am going back to school to become a Registered Dietitian and I definitely can attribute spark to helping me find my life's passion.
6. A new outlook on life. In this past year I have really focused on becoming happy and becoming a positive person. One year ago today, I was miserable and unhappy and full of heavy emotion that I wouldn't share with anyone. I was negative and thought I could not accomplish anything. I have changed all of this over the past year and I continue to work on improving these aspects of my life EVERY DAY. I never imagined that losing weight would open my eyes to many changes that were necessary to make my life better but I'm so thankful for all of these changes!
7. The title of Spark motivator. This was an incredible accomplishment for me and it definitely pushes me every day to be more successful.
8. A love and passion for exercise. Sure, this happened only recently (June/July) but I wouldn't trade it for anything. I love exercise and I realize that it is one of the top priorities in my life because it reduces my stress, improves my sleep, makes me feel better all around, forces me to focus on healthy eating so I can fuel my workouts, etc. etc. I could go on here, but I'll stop :)
9. Confidence that I can truly accomplish anything I want, all it takes is dedication from myself and hard work. This confidence has carried into all parts of my life and I couldn't be happier for it.
10. Motivation to be a better, healthier, happier person. I used to feel like I had no motivation but that was because I hadn't done any work. Motivation comes AFTER the hard work and hard decisions. Make those, see progress and you'll be motivated to keep going!
11. A slew of new recipes, new techniques and new foods that I really love. Who would have thought I would find a way to like oatmeal, yogurt, brussel sprouts, tomatoes, etc? I LOVE it!
12. The reputation as someone who lives life healthy. I've inspired friends of mine in real life, my family, Matt, spark members and random blog readers on the internet to live a healthier lifestyle by SHOWING them that it can be done and that it's successful and truly changes your life.

In the past year on spark, I have accomplished:

1. I ran an entire 5K, without stopping. This is one of the proudest moments of my life.
2. I have lost all the weight I gained since graduating college. Now I just need to work on the weight I gained DURING college :)
3. I set a goal to become a spark motivator, and I did it!
4. I admitted that I cannot do everything, I am not perfect and I do need help from others.
5. I have brought my blood pressure and resting heart rate down and am no longer pre-hypertensive.
6. I have decided to no longer let my thyroid be an excuse for being heavy. I never thought I'd be able to lose weight with a thyroid issue, but I've decided that's not true. It might take me longer, but I'll do it.
7. I have dealt with my fear of opening up to people and started a public blog where I talk about my weight loss and healthy living. Sometimes I still feel very anxious about putting personal details out there for everyone to see, but I know that I'm helping others and myself, so I keep writing.
8. I have found my own path for my life in this past year and I am no longer doing things because someone else feels that's the best thing for me. I am in control of all of my emotions and actions and I am the only one who decides my path and my future.
9. I have decided I am not happy in my current career and have carefully and thoughtfully changed my career path to one that is better suited for my lifestyle and my personality. I have applied to said program and been admitted and I will start this spring.
10. I have learned the knowledge of portion control and moderation and I have lost all of my weight WITHOUT giving up anything I love. I don't diet, I live.
11. I have learned to be my own biggest fan and to support myself. Instead of viewing myself as a failure, I now see myself as a dedicated and accomplished athlete that has many more successes in front of her.
12. I have NOT become a yo-yo dieter. This was a huge fear of mine as I've never tried to lose weight before, but I can successfully say that I am NOT a yo-yo dieter! WHOO!

In the NEXT year on spark, I plan to accomplish:

1. I will run a 10K.
2. I will weigh in the 100s again for the first time since I was probably 18.
3. I will be able to wear my high school ring on my finger again!
4. I will find a healthy balance between school and work, and school and my new part time job starting in the summer.
5. I will continue to work on myself and become a better person for myself, my family and my friends.
6. I will continue to motivate and inspire others to live a healthy lifestyle by keeping up with my outside blog and be more active on spark! I will continue to blog, both here and outside spark because it truly is my spiritual outlet and a way to connect with myself!
7. I will continue to work on happiness and reduce stress.
8. I will continue to see the positive aspects of situation and drown out the negative voices in my head.
9. I will, at least ONCE, follow my weekly goals to a T and accomplish everything on the days I should. This is such a hard task, but I will do it at least once!
10. I will try one new vegetable/fruit a month.
11. I will continue to exercise and track my food, as these are key contributors to my success.
12. I will make it to my 2 year sparkversary without dropping off spark and without yo-yo ing with my weight!

In the past year on spark, I have made several HUGE revelations:

1. I am in control of everything I do, eat, say, feel, think, etc.
2. Motivation comes AFTER the work, not before.
3. 90% of the battle of weight loss, becoming happy or any BIG change in your life is mental. The mental battle is by far the hardest battle in the world.
4. Being happy is wonderful and why did I ever feel like I didn't deserve this or need this?
5. You only have one life, so make it the best life that you can.
6. The stronger you are, the more you admit defeat, trouble and ask for help.
7. You can eat ANYTHING you want, just practice moderation and portion control. You can have it all, just not all at once.
8. Weight means nothing in comparison to inches, accomplishments and the way you feel.
9. There are people out there that feel the same way as you. You just have to find them.
10. No one has the right to make you feel bad and you do not have the right to make anyone else feel bad. Be nice, what's so bad about it?
11. Set goals. How will you ever accomplish anything without a goal?
12. Some days will be harder than others, but on those days you will test your real character and see how far you really have come! YOU CAN DO IT.

Thank you so much for celebrating my anniversary with me! Here is my present to myself, which I am SO excited about. I've never had eggplant before and I think this guy is SO super cute and I can't wait to try him! He will be my first new veggie of this second year on spark. Can't wait!


Some quick updates because I am SUPER busy today at work.

1. I realize I have not posted the Things I love this week, even though I promised. I apologize about this! I seriously haven't had the time to do it yet - so hopefully I will soon.

2. Please, everyone, think happy thoughts for Matt today. He is taking the GMAT this afternoon and I want him to have as much positive energy as he can while taking the exam!

3. Today is my one year anniversary on sparkpeople. I am SO excited and I'm working on a big blog post for my spark blog. I'm planning to cross-post some of it, so be on the look-out for that later today.

4. My friend Heather is having a starbucks give-away so if you like coffee or tea, please go check it out!

5. Also, I have joined the Pile on the Miles challenge for the Holiday season. This is a challenge among bloggers and blog readers to run/walk the most miles they can in November. Now, I'm not expecting to win this challenge at all as I'll be competing against several girls that are marathon training, but this is JUST what I need to get back into a consistent running routine. Since my 5K, my running has been all over the place due to many factors - trying to switch to outside runs only, it's been raining all the time here in the past month and I hurt my foot. I'm SO excited to start this challenge on Sunday!

6. I had an appointment with the Dietetics advisor for my program yesterday and got my school schedule hammered out (well, almost). She helped me pinpoint which classes I need to take when in order to finish the bachelors by Spring 2011. The good news is I know exactly what order I need to take the classes in and I definitely can finish in that amount of time. She also complemented me on wanting to take such a heavy load - she says she doesn't see many students anymore that are willing to take heavy loads so she appreciates my dedication and drive. The bad news is that I don't have much wiggle room at all in case a class isn't offered. This should really only be an issue for the summer - All the classes for the summer are pre-reqs for the fall classes, so there is a possibility I might need to take a few of them at a different school if my new school doesn't offer the classes. Oh well,  I WILL figure this out!

That's all the updates I have. Off to work!

Monday, October 26, 2009


My apologizes on being MIA. My family was in town this weekend and I had a lot of things going on so I was not home at all!

Unfortunately, my weekend didn't go as well as I had hoped it would. I've been basically on the verge of an emotional breakdown all weekend. I realize that I should talk about it, but I'm deciding not to today because:

1. I'm an internalizer. I keep everything in (I am working on this, I promise)

2. Some of the things that happened should remain private matters

3. I don't want to exploit myself or anyone on the world wide web (remember when we called it that?)

4. I'm exhausted and frankly talked out about everything

So, staying true to my current quest of not being a negative Nancy - I will leave you with a few realizations I had this weekend. These realizations (however hard some are), are going to help me become a stronger and healthier person every day!

1. Exercise is a much better stress reducer than alcohol or food ever were for me (If only I had exercised more this weekend..)

2. Sometimes the best "vacation" is living the life you live every day. Do you notice how much more relaxed and accomplished you feel when you stay in your typical daily/weekly routine? I am always more exhausted and more stressed after a busy week/weekend/time of friends, family or traveling. Give me my normal, predictable life any day (I am SO looking forward to this week and weekend because there is nothing special planned!)

3. You are the only person that controls your life, your emotions, your happiness, your sadness, your food, your exercise and your well being. Other people can be influencers of these things, but you have the final say of how you react.

4. Always live by the golden rule: "Treat others as you want to be treated."

5. Dallas actually has healthy and fresh restaurants that are not chains and serve more food I would eat than food I wouldn't eat. I experienced this myself Saturday night when my family went to The Dream Cafe for dinner. I can't wait to go back!

6. I'm sure everyone is getting tired of my vague, strange entries and pep talks I've had with myself lately, but it's my blog and I'll pep talk myself if I want to!

More realizations to come - stay tuned for Things I love shortly.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Quick and Simple Suppers #3

Another Quick and Simple Supper.

Except, this is more Quick and Simple Supper Side Dish

I present you with: Mashed Chickpeas (aka warm hummus). This is a Rachel Ray recipe. I watched her make it once and I stored the idea in my head. Now when I make it, I just do my own thing - so feel free to look at her recipe too. I'm not sure what our differences are.

For this recipe you need the following:

  • EVOO
  • Garlic
  • Chick peas (also called garbanzo beans)
  • Chicken stock
  • Cumin (not shown)
  • Black pepper (not shown)
  • Lemon zest/juice
  • Tahini
  • Parmesan cheese (not shown)
1. Put a little EVOO in a pan and add your garlic. I grated my garlic instead of  mincing it as I've explained before. I added ~1.5 tsp of EVOO.

2. Meanwhile, drain the chick peas and give them a rinse. Then add them to a food processor and pulse them.

 After pulsing

3. Add chick peas to EVOO and garlic mixture. Next add chicken stock. I have no idea how much stock I added, but you want to add enough that it's a little liquid-y. As the chick peas heat up, they will absorb this liquid!

4. Next, add the following ingredients:

Black pepper (just eyeball it) and cumin - roughly 1 TBSP of cumin

Lemon zest and then the juice of the lemon

 And the tahini. Man tahini packs some calories huh! I used roughly 1.5 TBSP of tahini - I eyeballed it.

Tahini added 

5. Let this keep heating through and once the stock has been mostly absorbed and evaporated you are all done!! Now you are ready to plate and add your parmesan cheese. You definitely can add feta too, I just had parmesan on hand.

I  had this warm hummus with .75 of a breast of chicken that I baked with garlic and sundried tomatoes. I also had carmelized cabbage on the side too!

Mashed Chick Peas. I realize that looks like a ton of cheese, but it's a little over a TBSP.

Baked garlic and sundried tomato chicken with a little parmesan cheese

Carmelized cabbage

All together now!

Happy eating!

I forgot to mention the nutritionals on this. I made 3 servings. One serving (including the cheese) has 226 calories; 10 g of fat; 7g total fat; 3g saturated fat;  22g carbs; 12g protein; 60g potassium; 496g sodium; 7g fiber

Drop that salt shaker!

As a future dietician (I don't know that I'll ever get tired of saying this), I'm trying to stay more current on public health issues and am finding great joy in reading these articles. I read this blog this morning and it really got the wheels in my head spinning.

The issue of sodium intake is near and dear to my heart. When my doctor told me I had to lower my blood pressure and lose weight in order to prevent taking blood pressure medicine at the young age of 22, she told me first to lower my sodium intake. Lowering sodium intake is one of the best ways to lower your blood pressure, in addition to losing weight and exercise.

I used to LOVE salt. I don't think I can describe to you how much salt I ate. I not only ate ridiculous amounts of fast food, restaurant food and pre-packaged and processed foods, but I also added salt to all of these things. A few months before my doctor told me to lose weight and to cut back on the salt, I would have swollen ankles almost every single day from all this excess salt. I drank iced tea and cranberry juice on a daily basis to try to flush some of this extra salt out of my body. I never knew exactly what I was doing to myself until my doctor brought light to the issue and I began to learn about the ill effects of sodium and that sodium is added to almost everything you see advertised now.

When my doctor first presented me with some research about losing weight, she encouraged me to try the DASH diet. DASH stands for "Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension." This diet is focused ONLY on lowering sodium and lowering blood pressure, not losing weight. If you read information on the diet you will find that while they don't advertise weight loss with this diet, many consumers of the diet plan will lose weight simply because they are changing their eating style to one of fresh foods. On DASH you eat very little processed foods. I find this really interesting because in the previous mentioned blog I read this morning, the basic synopsis of the blog is that the nutritional evidence of lowering sodium in your diet does not match scientific evidence because it is impossible to complete an accurate experiment in the scientific community. Since everyone eats above normal amounts of sodium as it is, researchers are not able to populate a group of low sodium eaters who would provide accurate results. The only way to have a low sodium diet in America today is to follow a plan like the DASH diet that focuses on fresh foods and minimizes processed and pre-packaged foods. Obviously making this drastic change in your diet would provide many health benefits that are not the direct cause of lowering sodium, thus there is no statistical importance in regards to cutting sodium intake.

I believe that lowering sodium in diets starts with the preparers of food to lower the salt. As the Food Politics blog mentions, most of the sodium problem is coming from the foods we eat rather than what we are adding with our salt shakers. Restaurants, fast food establishments and food companies need to start lowering sodium in their products. While it is possible to eat a low sodium diet, the average American will not be able to because a majority of the food they eat is processed and pre-packaged.

Why aren't companies doing this though? Why is there so much added salt to these foods? The basic reasons are flavor and preservatives. Salt has long been used to preserve food and salt is much cheaper than adding other methods of flavor - like fresh spices. You can only do so much to a frozen, boxed or canned meal to keep it tasting "fresh" and edible. Take the salt out of most of these meals and you'll just end up with something bland and non edible and probably won't last as long as the salt helps preserve the food. The other problem is due to the vicious circle of the taste of salt. So, most people eat foods that have been processed or prepared with too much salt. Therefore, when they eat something that is not full of salt, it doesn't have the salt flavor they are accustomed to. Therefore, they feel like they must add salt to the food to regain that taste. How will you ever stop eating so much salt when all the food you eat is loaded in salt?

It was astonishing to me as I started to cut back the salt in my diet because at first it was SO hard. I bought salt substitutes and had to use them for every meal of every day. But slowly as I began consuming less and less salt, my taste for salt disappeared. Salt no longer tasted good to me and now I essentially cook with no salt at all. I will bring casseroles and rice dishes up to work and my coworkers will try them and tell me they need salt. But to me, it tastes perfectly fine! So just re-training your taste buds is a challenge because unless you are like me and prepare most of your own meals, you'll never be able to break the cycle of the taste of salt.

Honestly consuming only 2400 mg of sodium a day is very hard. It's hard even for me most days. I used to shoot for 1500 mg of sodium but that made me very upset and obsessive over everything I was eating and took the joy out of my food. So now I shoot for 2400 mg and most days I'm right around this mark. I made the decision some time ago that lowering my sodium intake to ~2400 mg is acceptable for me but I will definitely be over this limit some days. Pretty much anytime that I have a meal out, I can guarantee I will be over my sodium. But since I don't eat out that often, I have balance in my life and I'm okay with those few days that I am over. I also don't avoid deli meats or cheese like I used to. The occasional turkey sandwich won't kill me. I just have to watch the intake of sodium in my other meals that day. I treat my sodium intake now much like I treat my healthy eating balance - the times when I can eat low sodium or buy the low sodium/no salt added variety, I do. But those times when I can't or decide I want to have something that is high in sodium - I still eat it. For example, I still buy salted butter. But I buy unsalted chicken stock and unsalted canned veggies. I make trade-offs!

Here are a few of my tips for lowering your salt intake.

1. Obviously cut back on the salt shaker. Look to other ingredients to add flavor to your dishes. Invest in a spice rack, fresh herbs or add garlic/onion/lemon zest/etc to your foods. Fresh herbs go much further to add flavor to your meal than the salt shaker does. Start slow, but slowly wean yourself off the salt.

2. Try to avoid eating out as much as possible. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to eat out, look for the options that have the freshest ingredients. Fresh = generally low sodium. Salads, veggies, fresh fruit, yogurt, etc - these are all great options that will be lower sodium.

3. When buying canned and frozen food, look for the no salt added or low sodium options. Also, typically organic foods have lower sodium. If you are buying frozen veggies, avoid the ones with sauce already included. Sauce = full of sodium. As I said before, most processed meals have a lot of salt - so avoid frozen dinners, meals in a box and the processed shelf meals (like those Hormel Compleats). Always read the labels! Your eyes will pop out of your head the first week that you start tracking your sodium. Sodium is hidden in essentially everything. Other than calories, sodium is the #1 thing I look at when reading food labels.  Just check the labels to find out for yourself!

4. Some things naturally have more salt - like deli meats, cheese and broths/soups. So for those items, decide what is important to you and what you can live without. If you can live with a more bland deli meat, buy the low sodium variety. If you don't care which cheese you eat, opt for Swiss as it's naturally low sodium. If you can make your own soups, buy the unsalted stocks (Kitchen Basics has the only line I've ever seen of unsalted stocks.) You will still want to enjoy some foods that are not low sodium, so pick and choose your battles. A reduction anywhere will help!

5. Eat as fresh as you can. The more fresh ingredients you use, the lower sodium your meal will be. If you choose to make your own rice instead of using prepared rice or boxed rice, you can control how much salt you add. Same thing with pasta - if you make your own pasta you can control the amount of salt you add to the water (I use none!). Cook your own meats instead of relying on pre-cooked varieties. Even going from a full fat cheese to a 2% cheese means you are consuming more sodium. Less fat = less flavor = more sodium added to make up for the lack of flavor. Fat free cheese is obviously even worse! Obviously fresh veggies and fruits will be naturally low sodium so add as many of those as you like!

6. Just pay attention! Like I said, just start watching your sodium. You'll be amazed how much you are eating. You'll also be amazed at how much lighter and skinnier you feel without all the extra salt. My ankles and fingers are now super skinny and never bloated! My weight doesn't fluctuate as much on the scale each day and I feel less sluggish each day because of the reduced sodium!

Good luck! Let me know if you have any questions or need help!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cold Feet

I think I've already told you guys that I'm a worrier and an obsessor. So that means that at any given time of every single day, I'm worrying or mulling over something in my head. Sometimes it gets so bad that I'll be hardcore worried about something and a few minutes later I can't even remember what I was worrying about, but the feelings of stress and worry are still my body. I'm consumed most days by worry over things that I can't control.

Sometimes, when a lot of hectic things are going on I'll have little fits where I become obsessed with ONE thing that I think I can control and I'll stop at nothing to complete this one task. This is what happened when I sold my house. I couldn't control when my house was going to sell, but I could control the new things I needed for my apartment. I seriously spent about a week freaking out about what shower curtain I should buy for the apartment I didn't even have.

sigh. I know, it's bad.

Seriously though, I'm learning to control it. I know I've mentioned several times that I'm working on my stress and I've seen leaps and bounds of progress just by changing the way I think. I've learned some basic stress management skills and when I find myself in a state of panic, I rely on these skills and I talk my way through the stress. Why else do you think I have SO many pep talks with myself!? I've learned that every time that I am on the "what if" ledge, that I should keep pushing myself and take the what if to the most absolute (but realistic) circumstance and then tell myself I can get through it.

I know I have these skills. I know that stress is nothing but a lack of confidence. I know that I cannot control certain things in life and that's okay. I KNOW these things and I tell myself these things, but it doesn't change the fact that sometimes the stress still seeps in.  I started working on managing my stress in June or July of this year and I seriously have been doing a fantastic job. I have been feeling SO much better about life and I started implementing structure into my life and I was able to bring some of the quirks and characteristics of my old self back into my life and learn to stop being embarrassed about them. Instead of feeling like I was stuck in a miserable life with no way out, I decided to become a positive thinker and to decide what I really wanted in life.

One of those things is obviously a new career. But I have to admit, as excited as I am and as happy as it makes me to think about what my new life is going to be like with a fantastic job that I'm passionate about, that stress has been seeping in. I've been going through major bouts of cold feet regarding this decision. The cold feet started as soon as I considered going back to school. I kept throwing ALL these negative thoughts at myself and I was focusing ONLY on the negative aspects of making this change. This would be a pay decrease from a life in finance. I will be a poor college kid for the next 3.5 years. I will accumulate MORE student debt. What will my family think? Is this even feasible?

I even read an article this morning about the top 10 areas for job growth, expecting something in the dietetics/nutrition field to be present because of all the talk about healthcare reform and instead I saw "Senior Financial Analyst," which is the career path I'm on right now.

But as all of these negative thoughts keep flooding in, I keep thinking about my life now and how I'm not happy with where my career is going. The one saving grace for me when I start experiencing cold feet is to think about what I'll be doing. It's to read books about the profession, or read the blogs of RDs or to read about what Ellie Krieger does each day and how RD's help other people. Everytime I read those things, it's like my body is consumed with excitement and I just know in my gut that this is a great step for me and it's the right step.  Then I give myself that pep talk and say, "I can do anything that I want and I will be successful because I define success for myself." I recognize that excitement and stress feel the same way to the body, so when I feel stress, I need to just convince myself it's excitement instead.

I have a fortune from a fortune cookie of many years ago on a picture of me and my dad on my nightstand. I actually completely forgot this was there until last night when I saw it again. It says something along the lines of: "Today might be the day to make some decisions based on your instincts." I realized my instincts tell me that I'm going to be a fantastic RD. My instincts tell me that helping people and sharing the gift of healthy living with other people is what will make me the most happy. My instincts tell me this profession is going to keep me motivated to continue my own healthy lifestyle. My instincts tell me a career as a RD it will give me the stability and safety that I need in life. 

So today and tomorrow and every day in the future that I start to get cold feet, I'm going to turn to my instincts. My instincts tell me I'm getting cold feet because this is a big change and change is scary - not because I'm making a mistake. My instincts are MINE and therefore I will only listen to myself and not listen to everyone else. I don't care who supports me and who doesn't, I'm doing this for me and me only.  

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Becoming the Odd Duck

Everytime I sit down to write today's blog I just have a big sigh and think wow..  all I want to do is be negative. You all have those days right? Where's its just really hard to not feel weighed down by the things going on in your life. And while a lot of the things going on in my life are super positive right now, it's just hard to balance them all and not feel BLAH. My mind is consumed with all these thoughts and everytime I stop to grab one and analyze it, it's another negative thought! One big thought that I've been mulling over for a few weeks is about my blog, so let's explore that one today.

I feel like I don't have a direction for my blog. I know there are a lot of readers (thank you mr. google analytics!) and I really don't want to disappoint you guys. I started this blog for ME and in the end, it will still be for ME - but who am I kidding? I'm obsessed with other people's opinions, to the point where I get anxiety over them, and then I start to plan around them. Also, frankly, I'm a little skeeved out by who is reading my blog. I know there are a bunch of you and I know where you guys are from and how you are finding my blog, but not enough to pinpoint WHO is exactly reading. And while I make a conscious effort to only post things I'd be comfortable with EVERYONE in the world reading, I still am a little weirded out by it. Maybe if I knew who some of you were??? Maybe you could leave me a comment? You don't have to! Just sayin...

But anyways, back to the direction of the blog. So many people have food blogs, or exercise blogs, or fashion blogs, etc. etc. And while food is a huge part of my life and exercise is a huge part of my life (and well fashion is not), I just don't feel like labeling my blog as in one category in particular. I'd like to think that my blog is just a direct extension of the crazy (crazy!) thought parties that go on in my head. Because frankly, sometimes I just blog in order to restore peace in my brain. If I can actually slow down my thoughts and grab a few and throw them out here after I've analyzed them, then I feel better about life. I feel like I'm not that crazy anymore. I just worry (again with the worrying) that you all don't appreciate my random and sometimes crazy thoughts and analysis. I don't always have the nice short blogs with the pretty food pictures that make my life look so uber glamorous like so many of the blogs that I read do.

In case you don't know this about me, I'm a compulsive worrier and when you mix that with someone who is obsessed with comparing myself to other people, you get some of the episodes of crazy ridiculous stress and nonsense thoughts that I rarely let leak out on this blog. Sort of like the one I'm having today! My entire life I've put so much pressure on myself to be the best at everything and to be perfect and to not seem weird that I've really muffled the person that I WANT to be. I've also muffled some of my quirks and I have been ashamed of some of the talents that I have. A part of me is kind of ashamed and nervous to tell all of you my plans for each semester of school because they are seriously aggressive and a schedule that not many other people could handle. But, school is my thing, it's always been my thing and I'm a rockstar at it. I love school and I'm super excited about going back and challenging myself with this new degree.

Anyway, the point I guess is (really, there was a point? ha) that I started this blog to force myself to be different. This is my spiritual outlet to help myself find the true person that I want to be. I want to accept the different qualities I have and learn to love them. I want to accept the person that I want to become and stop comparing myself to others to measure my own success. I am the only person that can decide whether or not I am successful - just like I am the only person that decides my happiness.

I never wanted to this blog to become famous. Honestly, sometimes I get a little embarrassed seeing how many people read it now! I never wanted to have hundreds of readers following me each day. I already feel some pressure each day coming up with a post for the few readers I have now. But blogging is not a chore. This is my choice to be expressive and it is my choice of what I write on here and what I tell everyone. It was my choice to start this blog and it's my choice to continue it. I could quit right now and close myself up and try to fit back in with the crowd, but I'm choosing not to. Even if I don't know who all of you are and even if I grow popular one day, it will be because I said the things I wanted to say and I finally figured out how to stop holding myself back. I'm different. I want to be different. I want to be the odd duck. I don't know why sometimes I stop myself from actually being different. Sure, I'm afraid some people won't like me - but as I've learned from my blog posts on spark - a lot of people actually love my brutal honesty and my ability to be frank with myself and that I wear my ridiculously damaged heart on my sleeve. I need to stop telling myself that no one likes me or what I have to say.

So today, I'm going to stop asking for acceptance. I'm going to stop asking approval from people. This is my blog and if I decide to write huge random, "I can't follow what you're saying" rambling - then I will. And if you guys stop reading, I guess mr. google analytics will tell me! But even if you do, I won't stop. I wanted to be different, so I will have a different blog. I'll post what I want, when I want and not worry about it looking like everyone else's. Now that I think about it, that would be pretty boring. I'm more than just a series of pictures of what I ate today or how many miles I ran today. I have random and deep thoughts and I analyze those thoughts and I have pep talks with myself and I love sharing those things. I like to stimulate others to ask themselves hard questions and to look within themselves to realize WHY they do the things they do. I like to analyze myself this same way and apparently the most efficient way of doing that is by writing, so I will continue. So I'm deciding today that my blog's direction is to follow my life's journey to become a happier, healthier and more loving person (to myself).

Wow, I didn't expect this is where I was going at all today - but I'm so glad that I did. I guess even when I think I have nothing positive to say, I can now find a way to spin it in that direction. That's improvement already! 

Monday, October 19, 2009

Things I love - Week 6

This week instead of posting things that I'm loving, I'm going to post 25 reasons I love being healthy. This is all a part of my big plan to get my a** back on track with eating.

I love being healthy because:

1. I sleep better
2. I have more energy
3. I feel better, overall
4. I get sick less often
5. My blood pressure has gone down
6. My resting heart rate has gone down
7. For the first time in my life, I actually lost weight in a year instead of gained
8. My clothes are getting bigger and I'm buying smaller sizes
9. I have set goals and I have met them. Once I meet these goals, I set new ones
10. I feel accomplished
11. I'm working to improve ALL aspects of my life
12. I have potentially found my life's passion - healthy eating and cooking
13. I will be taking this passion and making a career of it when I return to school in January to become a RD
14. I can eat anything that I want, in moderation
15. I am less stressed
16. Healthy food tastes better
17. I no longer have an upset stomach every day
18. I no longer have headaches every day
19. My skin is so much clearer with all the water and not all the greasy food
20. I am a RUNNER!
21. I know that with positive thinking, I can do anything I want
22. I've found a way to FINALLY be happy about life
23. I have made incredible and wonderful friends that are also striving to be healthy
24. I have set an example for the people in my life to also be healthy
25. I know that anything is possible now that I am healthy and my options will only grow as times goes by

To see the rest of the Things I love series, click here.

Why do you love being healthy? If you aren't healthy, do any of these things inspire you to pursue a healthy lifestyle?

Avoiding the excuse mill.

I already admitted that I'm having a rough time lately. And despite posting that blog and admitting my mistakes, I still had a rough weekend. I just can't get it together and this really isn't normal for me at all.

But this morning I started thinking about WHY I've been eating so horribly. Granted, the not exercising part I haven't been able to help (foot is much better, going spinning today THANK GOD), but that should be a separate issue from food. And honestly, everything reason I came up with for my poor eating is an excuse. So I hurt my foot and can't exercise? Does that mean healthy living ceases to exist? No! I decided that there is absolutely no reason I should be so off track and I won't get back ON track until I acknowledge that healthy living still continues no matter what.

This is especially important for me as my family is coming in town this weekend. My family is not unhealthy, by any means. But that still won't change the fact that I'll be going out to eat with them Friday and Saturday nights, as well as attending a big family cookout Sunday. My mom and one of my aunts have serious food allergies (soy, caffeine, lactose, corn, wheat all between the two of them), so I know there will be plenty of healthy food available. It still is in the back of my head as an obstacle to succeed. Anytime that I'm not 100% in control of my surroundings, I just feel panic. That's not okay!

Everything boils down to self discipline. If you want something bad enough, you'll find a way to make it happen. I want to be healthy. I want to lose weight. I want to be a size 10. There are a lot of things that I want and everything requires work. You can't expect change without the work. So it's simply a matter of being strict with yourself and remembering all of these goals every time you make a decision.

Self discipline is such a bi**h huh? But, I've said it time and time again - you're biggest obstacle is yourself. It's all about those mental games in your head. It's always acknowledging that you ARE worth it and that you are in control of your actions and your life. At the end of the day, no one caused me to eat bad besides myself. And so what if I am going out to eat? Sure my sodium intake might be a little high, but that doesn't mean anything else has to be. I have to keep remembering one of my healthy living mantras that I use when I vacation, "I will eat the healthy option when it's available so I will not feel guilty when the option is not available."

Honestly, the option to eat healthy is almost ALWAYS there. That's pretty great!

So this week is dedicated to my self discipline again. I will stick to my routine. I will stick to my weekly goals. I will stick to my planned meals. I will hopefully have a good spinning class today and not feel pain in my foot and be able to continue exercising this week. I'm going to take is slow, but I will not let my exercise affect my food. There's no reason!

I'm going to keep working on these principles week and week again until I can get in a solid routine and build the healthy habits again. If I think things are hectic now, just imagine how I'm going to feel in January when I'm in school again! I know myself. I know that if I can't get this under control right now, I'm in trouble once school starts again. Healthy living can defeat anything though, as long as I make it my priority and my focus. I will do this. I'm not giving myself any other option.

Sometimes all you really need is a pep talk with yourself and a reminder why you are doing this. Being healthy is possible and it's actually a lot easier than it seems. You just have to beat those mental demons!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Confession Time.

I have a confession.

This week sucks.

Between being suppper stressed out all day Tuesday and announcing my huge news to everyone Wednesday, and finally all of you on Thursday and a foot injury (that I don't think I've mentioned) it's been a bad week.

Recap on the foot:
Sunday I had a 3 mile neighborhood run scheduled. Towards the end of the run, I noticed my right foot starting to hurt right below my ankle and on the underside of the foot. Weird, I thought. Monday it was a little sore, but I still went to spin class. By Monday night, I couldn't walk. I was hobbling around and limping and in serious pain. The pain seemed to be coming from my bone so I was just SURE that I had a stress fracture. That really stressed me out, just adding to why Tuesday was such a hot mess. I decided on Tuesday that I would take a few days completely off exercise and if by Friday it didn't feel better, I'd go to the doctor.

But, since Tuesday I CAN'T keep food out of my mouth. Healthy or not healthy, I can't stop eating. I don't know what it is. I don't know if it's mental, or emotional or actually my body thinks it's still working out so it needs food - but I've been AWFUL the past few days. And every day I wake up and vow that I'm done and back to my normal routine and diet, and I have a great breakfast, but then something happens and I just start eating. I haven't been tracking my calories, but thankfully I don't think I've been THAT high. I know I'm over my limits, but not by much. But the quality of what I'm eating isn't good. I'm not eating a lot of fruits/veggies. I'm definitely not getting enough water. And I'm way overdoing the salt because I've been nonstop swollen since Tuesday. I was so dehydrated yesterday and couldn't get water in my body fast enough that I had some gatorade because I was that miserable!

I get home every night and I can't work out and I've been exhausted so I just lay on the couch and watch TV ALLLLL night. I hate this! Why am I doing this? I've been so tired, so out of energy, haven't been sleeping at night. These are all blatant reminders of exactly why I eat healthy and exercise and have changed my priorities, but this week I just haven't been doing it. I can't wait to work out again. Seriously, I don't know if I'll ever take exercise for granted again. I've been moody, upset, depressed, negative because I'm not working out and not eating well. I can't take it anymore!

Today is hard for me. I decided this morning to stop hiding and just tell people. Tell everyone I'm having a hard week and hope that it gives me a reason to stay on track. Today is my day to get back on track. But tonight, I already have plans to go out for Mexican food before a concert with friends. Believe me, I can make my meal as healthy as possible - but it just makes me not want to! It gives me an excuse to feel like it's okay to eat poorly all day. BUT IT'S NOT!

Part of the problem, and I should have known this going into this week, is that I don't have much fresh food. Since Matt and I are trying to drain down our can and frozen veggie stash, I didn't buy much fresh food. Somehow when I don't have fresh food that has a "freshness window", and therefore needs to be cooked, I find myself slipping more. I can't wait to get some of this frozen food cooked so I can go back to my fresh fruits/veggies! Yes I need to have some frozen food on hand at all times, but maybe I'm not going to focus SO much on it because I'm just sabotaging myself now.

Today I didn't' bring my lunch. That was not a good idea, but seriously I couldn't think of a thing I had that I wanted to eat at home so I told myself I'd get a subway sandwich for lunch. But now I'm SO tempted to get pizza from my work cafeteria because it's only $1 a slice and I'm on a strict budget now that I'm going back to school. BUT I won't allow it. Subway it will be. Healthy (er.. I wouldn't call subway healthy really) food it will be. I will make dinner healthy. I am acknowledging my problem and I need everyone's help to get back on track please!

My foot, by the way, feels a LOT better. Actually, every day I stay off of it it feels even better the next day. Since I had already planned to take today off exercise I'm giving it one more day and will do something tomorrow. I'm not sure when my next run will be. I was supposed to run a very fun 5K next Thursday so hopefully I'm back 100% by then and can run it!

I just hate that everything for me is black and white. Either I'm working out hard and eating very well and things are great, or I'm doing none of it. I never feel like I can balance the food without the exercise. And since exercise is CRUCIAL for me and my well-being, I always try to eat well to fuel the workouts. But, I'll keep working on it. I'll remember that I'm not perfect. And I'll remember that in the long-run, this week means nothing. It's just a blip and I'll get over it!

Healthy life is a marathon, not a sprint.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

VERY big news

I feel really bad! Yesterday I posted some huge huge news on my spark blog to share with all my spark friends, but I didn't post it here. Part of me didn't want to make the news SO public, even though a lot of people already know. But then my friend Heather posted a reference on her blog to me announcing this big news, and I had a lot of visitors come over from her site - to a blog about stress but not a happy blog with my good news!

So I have kindly asked Heather to re-reference this news and decided to put up a short announcement of my news.

I'm going back to school to be a Registered Dietician!

For those of you who don't know, I have two bachelors degrees right now in Finance and Economics. I love both of these subjects SO much, but I don't really like the application of them in real life. Sure, I would love to go work for a hedge fund or the Federal Reserve, but that's just not something I'd be able to do and still balance my personal life. In addition, the office scene isn't for me. I like human interaction and making my own schedule and being on my feet. I had been playing around with the idea of going to Culinary School months ago, but decided I don't want to be a chef. Then I realized that being a Registered Dietician is even better because I can help people every single day make healthy choices in their lives and I can go above and beyond what the typical RDs do and SHOW people how to prepare delicious, quick and healthy meals. At some point I'd love to have cooking seminars or classes for patients to come in and all of us cook together. I'm very excited about it! Plus the fact that becoming a RD is no easy task appealed to me even more, as it's a prestigious occupation that not many people follow or achieve. I love a good challenge, so sign me up!

Here's how it will work. I'll take a few of my basics at night/online starting in January while I'm still working. At some point in the summer I'll have to take a pretty serious chemistry class that I HAVE to take in the summer and I HAVE to probably take during the day, as there will probably only be one section offered. At that point, I'll quit my job and go back full time to school. I imagine I will wait tables for income like I did my first time in Ugrad. I will finish my third bachelor's degree in Spring/Summer 2011 and start a Dietetic internship/combined Master's program in Fall 2011. I'll graduate from that in Spring 2013 with my Master's degree and be eligible to sit for the RD exam. From there, who knows!

I'm realllly excited. I'm reallllly nervous. But I really feel confident in my decision and I've weighed all the options, calculated everything and I know I can do this. I'm a little nervous about being a poor college kid again with crappy school health insurance, but it's only 3 years and I can do anything for 3 years. (well.. I can do this for 3 years). I'm super excited to be roughly 27 and have my masters already done! I wasn't planning to go back for my MBA until I was in my 30s and I could never really figure out how that would work, but I think that's because the MBA probably wasn't for me. This is do-able, I'm willing to sacrifice for it and I've shown myself how much I really want to be a RD.

I got accepted to the undergrad program yesterday, so that's why all of this kind of leaked out over the past few days. I'm really not looking forward to all the stress next semester with 12 hours of school and 40 hours of work, but I know I can do it!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A lesson in change

Just a note: This blog is about stress just because it's what I'm dealing with, but you can just as easily swap stress out for whichever emotion plagues you and it will mean just the same to you. The general thought here is that becoming who you want to be and overcoming these emotions and issues CAN happen, but it takes work.

I've talked about stress before, but today I want to say that no matter how many times you plan, you will STILL feel stress. No matter how many times you have a talk with yourself and coach yourself through a situation, you'll still feel stress. But it's really how you deal with the stress that lets you know you are coping and if you are changing.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Stress is nothing more than a lack of confidence. You feel stress or anxiety because you are not confident with your ability to cope. You are not confident that other's will approve of the decisions you make. You are not confident in your ability to perform. The list can go on and on, but trust me - next time you feel yourself in a stressful situation think about what is realllly going on and I guarantee you'll be surprised and better able to handle the stress once you break the situation down.

So as much as I can tell you these tips and I can remember these tips for myself, it all comes down to the heat of the moment. HOW are you going to act in that moment when you feel stress? Are you going to throw yourself a pity party and walk around sad and crying all day? Or will you stand up to stress and use your tools and techniques and beat it?

I wish I could tell you that it's easy. That once you learn the techniques and you master the mental battle and you have the stress relief process down that you'll have no problems. But today, I'm here to tell you that it's not easy. It's a choice every single day that you have to make to be a different person - no matter what you are trying to change in your life. Every day if you wake up and just try to make it to the end of the day you probably aren't feeling very accomplished are you? Change takes work and that hard work will pay off if you can dedicate and commit yourself to it.

You'll never be the person that you want to be without some hard work, some sacrifices and some conscious choices every day to make yourself better.

I say all of this as mostly a reminder to myself that this is what I'm doing. I'm working to make my life better in a thousand ways. I am working to become happy. I'm working to become healthy. I'm working to become something that I never thought I could be. I'm working to control my own life, instead of letting my stress or worse, someone else, control my life. And every day I have to wake up and make those small changes and small adjustments to make these big goals happen.

Every day you probably won't be able to do it. And that's okay. In fact, it's better than okay because it shows you that it's work You think you have changed? Throw yourself in a hard situation and see if you can navigate on auto-pilot. Even if you can't, that's okay. We are not perfect, nor are we striving for perfection. I remind myself this every single day.

I had a bad day yesterday. It wasn't any single event that made the day bad, but rather just a series of situations that I did not control individually so they all snowballed together and threw me really off. I had a lot of stress and instead of dealing with my stress and using my techniques, I ate my stress. And instead of having one weak moment and picking myself back up, I threw myself a pity party and I blew the entire day. Am I proud? No. Am I okay with it? Yes, I am okay with it. I'm not perfect. Not every single day is going to be perfect. Some days I'll beat my demons and other days I won't. The best thing about yesterday though, is that it was yesterday. It's not today. It's not tomorrow. What happened yesterday, happened and now it's over. Today I woke up and I chose to make today better. I chose to swallow my hurt pride and my mistakes and I'm going to make today better. Is today going to be the best day ever? No, probably not. But I'll make it as good as I can given the circumstances and tomorrow, I'll shoot for an even better day.

That's what I want to do now. I want to make every day better than the previous day. Why wouldn't I? Every day I learn something new about myself, I test myself and I grow as a person. It only makes sense that I would wake up and try to be better the next day.

"A man who wants something will find a way; a man who doesn't will find an excuse." - Stephan Dolley Jr.

Which do you choose? A way or an excuse? Make today better than yesterday and make tomorrow better than today. Continuous improvement is the best gift you can give yourself.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The art of moderation

I promised I would blog on moderation and here we go!

Moderation is probably one of the most difficult parts of being healthy for me. That seems weird, because in reality moderation is easy - ESPECIALLY the concept. People make it sound sooooo easy. You hear people all the time say, "Have a few bites of whatever you really want, then stop and move on to something healthier." OR "You can have any food you want, you just can't have it all." OR "If you don't want to exercise, just get to the gym and start your workout and if you really want to stop, then stop but at least you did something."  I'm sure there are a lot of people that would tell you that practicing moderation in their lives is easier than running, or easier than learning to cook, etc. etc. And for some, IT IS - but for people like me, it's not. You can't tell an alcoholic to have just ONE drink and expect them to be able to control themselves. Same thing for someone like me with a self-proclaimed food addiction and definite tendencies to eat when emotional - I can't just stop. I've never been able to figure out how to stop. So, I've avoided.

Avoiding has been key for me since I changed my life. I have been avoiding the areas of my life I don't feel like I control. Eating is the big one for me, so I have been avoiding the foods I know will "trigger" me to bad behavior. I try not to eat out. I try to only drink on nights where I don't have to work the next day. I avoid sweets and treats that are brought into the office for birthdays, holidays, etc. And sometimes, avoiding is a great tool. Some days, I just really don't need to eat that cookie and avoiding it was the right thing to do (this was me on Friday FYI). But other times, I get upset because I feel like a hermit. I feel like I can never go out when invited and my social life is lacking and sometimes, I just feel defeated because I can't have all the things I used to love and eat constantly. So on those days, I go and I try to control myself. I try to moderate myself. Some days I do well and other days I don't. But I can guarantee you that almost every time that I've gone out and tried to control myself, I've felt guilty afterward. Why? Because even though I tried, I still overdid it. Even if I was in my calorie range for the day and had a great day, I still feel like I'm just slowing down the process of losing weight. Well, that's just not fair to myself now is it?

As I've been reading more and more entries on several healthy lifestyle blogs, I see the bloggers practice moderation. Some days these girls, who are maintaining weight losses and no longer counting all those calories, eat and drink things that I'm shocked to see. Other days, they have the most perfect food day and I feel like they might be starving themselves! I see some of them limit themselves to one glass of wine, or one cookie, or one half a cookie even! And every time I see someone else do it, I wonder, "How??? How can they be satisfied from that? How can they not want more? And even if they want more, how do they keep themselves from eating more?"

And then, it kind of hit me. The scariest part about what I'm about to tell you is I'VE TOLD THIS TO PEOPLE. I'VE SAID THESE WORDS. And yet, they still didn't latch on in my brain and stick around for the next situation I needed to hear these words. I finally told myself, "You don't need it." Think about it, do you really need a large french fry? Or would you be satisfied with a small? Think about the law of diminishing returns (I realize I'm just showing off my inner economics geek, but go with me here). The law of diminishing returns states that the return (satisfaction) on that second french fry is going to be slightly lower than the return on the first french fry. You really really wanted the first french fry. Now you've had one, so the second is still good - but not AS good. By the time you get to the 25th fry, you're just eating them because they are there. Your return is so low at this point, you would be fine just stopping - but most of us can't because they are sitting there.

So more light bulbs started going off in my head. I've realized that what these girls are doing that I'm not doing is completely mental (really, you can't be that surprised. I've said it before - most of this game is mental). They are eating half that cookie and drinking that one glass of wine and telling themselves, "Wow, that was great." They realize they don't need more than what they've given themselves and they say, "Brain.. we're done here." Because they have a completely positive attitude towards the experience, they are able to practice moderation. Contrasted to me, who is bitter because I can't have another cookie - or sad because that wine tastes SO good and I want another glass. The entire time I'm indulging myself instead of savoring the food and enjoying how the food tastes, I'm sad because I can't have more. Next thing you know, the cookie is gone and I forgot to enjoy it and want another - whoops.

I've played with this idea of needing/not needing the food for a while now, but it wasn't until this weekend that I felt completely in control of moderation. Friday I really wanted a glass of wine and I had one bottle in my house. I asked Matt if he would split it with me. We did and it was great. Now the old me would have said, "lets go buy another" or "I'll switch to beer" to keep that buzz going. But I didn't - I told myself that was great, switched to water and went to bed when I got "hungry" and couldn't find anything decent to satisfy myself with.

Saturday I met a friend for lunch. I really wanted to eat thai food at a restaurant in my old hometown, so I suggested we meet there. I felt bad though because I really knew exactly what I wanted to eat, and while it wasn't that bad - the chicken egg roll I also wanted was. I considered not getting it. But then I'd feel sad. I considered asking my friend to split it with me. Then I started remembering how much food is served at this restaurant and the last time I was there I estimated my meal was over 1200 calories. Yikes! So, I decided to do something I never do - I asked for a to-go box and boxed up half of everything (except the veggie) that I was served. I had half a chicken egg roll, chicken satay skewers with peanut sauce, brown rice and garlic sautéed green beans. I ate all of the green beans and asked for another order to go for the next day. It was fabulous, both days I had it!

After lunch Saturday, my friend and I were talking and I started craving frozen yogurt with rainbow sprinkles. My friend told me about a new frozen yogurt place in Denton that was like coldstone for yogurt - you serve yourself, you pick the toppings and they weigh your yogurt and you pay for it. That's reallllly want I wanted. So we went. These containers were HUGE. No lie, they probably would have fit about 4 cups of frozen yogurt and there was only one size available. Since you serve yourself, I was careful to put a lot of yogurt in my cup and eyeballed about 3/4 cup(145 calories) of froyo in my container. I went to the toppings bar and was struck by everything they had! It all looked SO good! I could very easily have put everything on my fro yo, but I stuck with my rainbow sprinkles and savored the entire thing. It hit the spot. About half way through, I was sad I didn't have much left. I wanted more. Then I told myself, eat what you have left! After I finished eating it, I drank water and listened to the radio while driving home and didn't think about more fro yo and was totally happy with what I'd had.

Saturday night I really wanted a beer. We had bought some Sam Adams Imperial White (soooo good) but it's very strong. I was careful to wait until I was done with dinner, wait until I had finished a lot of water and chilled my beer glass. Then I poured one beer into my glass and slowly drank it. I didn't even finish the entire beer! It felt wonderful! I felt empowered! And most of all, I felt satisfied.

It's amazing what a little mental shift can do for you. I had never felt in control because no one had every taught me how to. But, I'm so thankful that I figured it out on my own. Sure, I'll have days where I don't control myself but realizing everything I just shared has been an eye opener for me. I can have anything I want, I just have to be happy with my choices. I'll probably always want more, but I'll make the choice to not have more, just like I make the choice to work out and drink water and count calories.

Next time I'm feeling off about something, instead of telling myself, "I can't" or "I'm out of control", I'll just stop and disect what my brain is really thinking about. I'll evaluate the mental aspect first, because I'm learning that the mental aspect of being healthy is far more hard and scary than the physical aspects. You can do anything you put your mind to do - so start trying it!